Categorized | Business

Why EAM, CMMS, CAFM, FMIS, CIFM, IWMS and Other Acronyms Are Confusing

One of the most popular posts on is about the usage of acronyms to describe a software solution for managing facility and real estate processes. In addition to that, I receive a lot of questions about all different acronyms and their meaning. Apparently these acronyms are confusing people. Most questions are either about solving a functional problem, or about clarification of the acronyms.


I have listed two of the most common questions below.

  • We want to organize our (space management, asset management, lease management, corporate real estate management, maintenance management, etc.), but we don’t know what kind of software solution we should buy? An IWMS or CMMS? Or perhaps EAM?
  • What is the difference between CAFM and IWMS?

These questions are very legitimate questions as in most cases substantial investment is involved, and people don’t want to be sacked for making a bad investment.

So how can we help those people?

Let’s take a look at the origin of these acronyms. According to Marty Chobot (FM:Systems)

Functional disciplines in facilities and real estate departments have been siloed. As a result, each discipline has had a category of software (and acronyms) developed around it – space and occupancy management (CAFM and some vendor specific variations on that term), maintenance (CMMS, EAM project management (currently IPD), portfolio management and lease administration (sometimes called REPM).

According to Andy Fuhrman (former CEO of OSCRE):

In the early days of CAFM we were integrating these applications that contained modules for Space Planning & Forecasting, Move Management, Maintenance Management, Cable/IT Management, Equipment Asset Management and some.

I totally agree with the above statements that functional silos and integration challenges have been the fundamental drivers of the development of acronyms to describe a facility management solution. To standout from their competition, vendors and business analysts have created all kinds of acronyms (EAM, CMMS, CAFM , FMIS, CIFM, IWMS and others), that instead of clarify, only confuse people. To help all confused people I’ll try to explain this. As a picture is worth a thousand words, I have created a graph about the current acronyms and their relation with the functional silos.

showing differences in acronyms for IWMS, CAFM


  1. Although I acknowledge the overlap between solutions, the above graph should give you an indication what solution to buy.
  2. Integrated Workplace Management Systems (green) are the top of the chain. IWMS includes all the basic functional domains (blue).
  3. If you need a solution in more than one functional silo, you should consider buy an IWMS.
  4. If you only need a solution in one specific functional silo, you should consider buying a functional domain solution (orange). Sometimes this is referred to as a point-solution.
  5. IWMS doesn’t have the functional depth of a point solution, but is broader than point-solutions. You should consider the 80/20 rule here.
  6. Integration with other applications should be an important aspect of the buying decision.
  7. Expect change. Changes will occur! This implicates that you need to expect changes in both your functional requirements (silos) and integration.

Final Thoughts

Although the Enterprise resource planning (ERP) market has consolidated acronyms to one widely accepted acronym, our industry apparently still isn’t mature enough to do so. We therefore consider consolidation of acronyms one of our challenges for 2010, and we gladly invite you to participate in that challenge. I would love to hear your thoughts!

4 Responses to “Why EAM, CMMS, CAFM, FMIS, CIFM, IWMS and Other Acronyms Are Confusing”

  1. chris kluis says:

    Nice post! When I explain EAM systems, I say maintenance management lies within EAM. EAM includea the asset lifecycle = from planning to purchase to maintenance to repair/replace.

    I’d like to think minimum features for an EAM include: contract/document management, work management, & capital asset planning.

    We also just put up a glossary of EAM/CMMS/IWMS terms that readers of this post may find useful at our website here.

    Our blog frequently talks about EAM/CMMS issues that your readers may find helpful. Keep up the good work!

  2. Joe Valeri says:

    Thank you for continuing this great topic. As you can tell from my recent posts here in IWMSNews and at the Lucernex Blog, I am not fond of the term IWMS to describe what we do nor am I in favor of consolidating under it. I know there is a value in a single term as it lets customers lump us together easily for comparison but, as a vendor who specializes in Location Management (which I am guessing in the diagram is listed as ELMS or RPMS) I find many customers who think IWMS is really more about maintenance (CMMS) than anything else which is just one small part of Location Management. The diagram perfectly illustrates my point as it tries to place all applications like ours under “CRE/Lease” when our type of application have just as strong project management and maintenance management as any “IWMS” solution, we just organize everything to be Location-centric.

    Lie the prior comment stated for EAM, I could easily show how all of the listed acronyms and their related features fall under Location Management since they happen at a Location!

    I for one hope that 2010 brings a further fragmenting of the term IWMS market into a few Acronyms that make sense to the end users!

    Joe Valeri
    President, Lucernex Technologies

  3. With this in mind, a CMMS is typically deployed by small businesses because the investment is lower across all attributes of the application, while EAMS are typically deployed into larger businesses with high user counts and multiple locations.

  4. Generally, the financial investment required for hiring personnel, buying software licenses and hardware, ensuring the appropriate change management and ongoing technical support for an EAMS and CMMS are typically proprtionally more significant for small businesses than larger companies that already have staff, equipment and change management processes in place.
    Also, smaller businesses may not have the baseline information to calculate whether the costs will generate a return but in this case it is possible to apply worst-case/best-case outcomes for benefits such as spare parts holdings cost reductions, uptime percentage improvements and increased production figures.
    Finally, it is common that EAMS are more expensive than CMMS because they are designed for larger, multi-site companies and so usually deliver a much wider scope of functionality and features than a CMMS.
    With this in mind, a CMMS is typically deployed by small businesses because the investment is lower across all attributes of the application, while EAMS are typically deployed into larger businesses with high user counts and multiple locations.